With their San Antonio school and police unable to stop the social media attacks, Mrs. Molak with the newly-founded David’s Legacy Foundation worked to change the Texas Education Code to include cyberbullying, tighten laws for increased penalties and to ensure that students were able to report incidences anonymously. The law went into effect in September.
The law also requires schools to inform parents of any incidences, whether as the victim or aggressor, within three days. Ms. Molak believes informing parents will stop most bullying.
Smithville Junior High is taking it a step further, making it possible for anyone to report anonymously, and including foundation information in their No Place For Hate program, started two years ago as a program of inclusivity.
Mrs. Molak gave practical advice for parents.
• Tell students that nothing ever really goes away on the internet. Even SnapChat can be accessed by police.
• Teach them that there are consequences to words and photos posted online. A Little League team lost the right to play in the World Series after posting a negative photo.
• Teach them to have each other’s back.
• Explain the difference between teasing, which is back and forth joking between friends, and taunting, which is one-way insulting or ridiculing.
• Let your child know that they can talk to you if they are bullied or see bullying.
• Teach them real world empathy and ask “how would this make you feel?”
• Be aware of your own posts and be a good example for your student. They are watching and learning from you.
“We’re having conversations with kids way earlier than we thought we’d have to,” said Mrs. Molak, stressing the importance of age-appropriate talks.
SJHS Principal Dr. Logan is incorporating this into their No Place For Hate program with Counselor Mrs. Campbell instructing.
Students will also have the opportunity to take a cell phone pledge “I promise to never use my device as a weapon” with accompanying reminder stickers to put on the back of their phone.
Students will be creating and voting on the best video that promotes inclusivity and positive cell phone use in their EPIC class.
Smithville Police Department has also been invited to talk to the students during their Social Studies class.
David’s Legacy Foundation has informational materials, a link to a suicide prevention hotline, legal help and specifics on changes brought about by David’s Law. More information can be found at www.davidslegacy.org
Maurine Molak and David’s Legacy Foundation
Maurine Molak and her family founded David’s Legacy Foundation in honor of their late son and brother, David, after he took his own life on January 4, 2016 at the age of 16. The foundation’s purpose is to raise awareness of cyberbullying, empower children and parents through education, and aid in the passage and awareness of David’s Law to protect Texas’ youth from the dangers of cyber abuse.
David Molak was an Eagle Scout, sports enthusiast, hunter, spurs fan, brother, and friend. In October 2015, David became the target of relentless cyber-assisted bullying at his high school. The harassment followed him through various online channels and caused him to feel overwhelmed with hopelessness in the months leading up to his death. The Molak family hopes to prevent this tragedy from happening to another family through the efforts of David’s Legacy Foundation.
Through the David’s Legacy Foundation’s online resources, victims of cyberbullying can access educational materials, connect to an online suicide prevention hotline, and reach volunteer attorneys through the foundation’s Don’t Bully Me (DBM) Project. The DBM Project provides pro-bono legal services to victims of serious bullying incidents.
To create a pathway to prevent cyberbullying in Texas, David’s Legacy Foundation worked during the 85th legislative session to push for legislation that will make cyberbullying a punishable offense and deter individuals from harassing minors through technology. SB-179, named David’s Law, was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in June of 2017 and goes into effect Sept 1, 2017. Supporters are encouraged to join in the organization’s cause by sharing positivity on social media, and follow the foundation’s Facebook page for news and updates.
Matt and Maurine Molak, along with David’s two brothers, Cliff and Chris Molak, continue a concerted effort with David’s Legacy Foundation through speaking engagements, partnering with schools, and sharing the message with young people that “It’s Cool to be Kind.”
David’s Legacy Foundation can be found online at www.DavidsLegacy.org or on Facebook as @DavidsLegacyFoundation.